NFL Coaches Already on the Hot Seat This Season

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistSeptember 27, 2019

NFL Coaches Already on the Hot Seat This Season

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    For better or worse, it doesn't take long for NFL coaches' seats to start heating up.

    Coming out of an offseason where a staggering eight head coaches lost jobs, this shouldn't come as any surprise. The NFL remains a "What have you done for me lately?" league despite many believing coaches don't get enough time to implement their vision. That short timeline can lead to rushing in quarterbacks before they're ready, or trying to force success via acquisitions or trades. 

    Regardless, the current hot-seat candidates are a mix of familiar faces who still aren't getting it done and new arrivals who are struggling so mightily a fanbase might not accept anything but a pulled plug. 

    A coach with a seat this hot already isn't guaranteed to make it through the season, yet whether they do will depend on a combination of performance from this point and the sensibilities of their respective front offices. These coaches have, at most, just 13 more games to show notable improvements. 

            

Jay Gruden, Washington Redskins

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    Julio Cortez/Associated Press

    Jay Gruden might be the most obvious candidate at this point. 

    Gruden took over as head coach of the Washington Redskins in 2014 and has since put together a 35-47-1 (.428) record, finishing first in the NFC East and making the playoffs just once (2015). 

    It seemed like Gruden might be on his way out this past offseason, but the longest-tenured coach of the Daniel Snyder era in Washington is back, even despite the team spending a first-round pick on quarterback Dwayne Haskins. 

    Not that Gruden wants to play the rookie yet and give himself a chance at keeping his job. The Redskins are 0-2 in the NFC East and 0-3 overall, and they just laid an egg on prime time, losing 31-15 to the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football, a game in which veteran starter Case Keenum threw three picks and lost two fumbles. But Gruden won't bench Keenum anyway. 

    To be fair, Gruden has dealt with one of the tougher front-office environments in the NFL given the team's draft track record. Ditto on the medical side, where the Redskins have been one of the NFL's most-injured teams in recent years, to the point the team looked for outside help this offseason to fix the issue and offensive tackle Trent Williams has continued to hold out, in part because of his "dissatisfaction" with the medical staff. 

    Even so, the groundswell of fan angst that always gets aimed at the head coach means Gruden won't be around much longer at this pace. 

Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    Did Brian Flores know what he was getting into with the Miami Dolphins? Well, other than the fact the Dolphins have just one winning season dating back to 2009?

    The team is in full-on tank mode now, to the point there's ongoing speculation the league might look into it. Most egregiously, the team has shipped away starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil and first-round defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick for a plethora of draft picks. 

    Maybe that's not entirely fair, as the return on those moves was superb and of the future-looking variety. But that doesn't mean Flores is immune to the chopping block: Just ask Steve Wilks about his one-year stay with the Arizona Cardinals in 2018. 

    Through three games, Flores' Dolphins are winless. But it goes beyond that given the lopsidedness of the losses: 

    • 59-10
    • 43-0
    • 31-6

    That's good for a minus-117 point differential, which is ridiculous regardless of the opposition. The defense, Flores' calling card, has looked wholly unprepared, and the team has already predictably moved away from veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to Josh Rosen, who should have been the starter from the beginning. Things aren't much better on the ground, as the running game is averaging just 2.6 yards a carry. 

    At this point, 0-16 is a very real thing, and while we can't know what's going on behind the scenes in Miami, this level of defeat isn't helping Flores' chances. 

Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The writing could be on the wall for Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh Steelers. 

    Tomlin missed the playoffs last year despite nine wins, making it the first miss since 2013. That's unacceptable for a standard-bearer of consistency like Pittsburgh. The waves of drama, from Le'Veon Bell to Antonio Brown and beyond, didn't help things. 

    Even without Brown and Bell, most probably wouldn't have expected a 0-3 start for the Steelers. Even worse was the opener, a bordering-on-silly 33-3 whipping at the hands of the New England Patriots. In Week 2, Seattle went into Pittsburgh and won, and the Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger for the season in the process. The following week, they took a loss in San Francisco with Mason Rudolph under center. 

    Other moves suggest change could be coming for the Steelers. It isn't a tank, but coughing up a first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick and also not owning their third- or fifth-round picks after their 37-year-old quarterback suffered a season-ending injury should raise an eyebrow. 

    To his credit, Tomlin won a Super Bowl and has a career .644 winning percentage to date. Some of the seemingly never-ending drama with Brown elsewhere suggests the head coach deserves more credit than he's received for leading the locker room. But a disastrous start and some interesting moves by the front office seem to suggest the seat is getting quite hot. 

Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Dan Quinn has had the benefit of partnering with a quarterback as talented as Matt Ryan since joining the Atlanta Falcons in 2015, yet he's only won seven more games than he's lost during that span. 

    Over the course of Quinn's tenure, the Falcons have made the playoffs just twice, though they registered two postseason wins during Ryan's MVP campaign that propelled the team to the Super Bowl before the infamous blown lead against New England. 

    It doesn't seem like Quinn has ever fully recovered, regressing in each season since, including last year's 7-9 record. This year, the Falcons are off to another slow start, sitting at 1-2 after stumbling out of the gates in Minnesota, then fending off an injured Philadelphia Eagles team by four points before losing to the Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts. 

    Keep in mind this sour start came after an offseason in which Quinn cleaned house, firing offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong. Atlanta started slow last year, going 1-4 before rebounding to finish 7-9, but a similar resurgence might not be possible this year, with every divisional game left on the slate, as well as matchups against Houston, Seattle and the Los Angeles Rams. 

    If Quinn's Falcons can't stretch out for nine wins, that would mean only two of his five years in town saw him finish better than .500 despite talents like Ryan and perennial Pro Bowl receiver Julio Jones. The luster of a Super Bowl appearance only goes so far for a head coach. 

Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    A new day for the Jacksonville Jaguars and coach Doug Marrone has quickly gone south. 

    The Jaguars limped out of the gates to a 0-2 start and lost their new quarterback, Nick Foles, to an injury in their first game. A Week 3 win over an underachieving Tennessee team was nice, yet it oftentimes feels like there is only so much we can read into those short-week Thursday affairs. 

    The rough start isn't exactly out of line for Marrone or the Jaguars. He is now 17-20 in Jacksonville over four seasons, which sits mostly in line with his 15-17 mark in Buffalo in 2013 and 2014. 

    Marrone did have that fateful run to the AFC title game in 2017, yet he hasn't been able to achieve anything close to that level again, winning just five games last year. Along the way, he's certainly dealt with his share of issues, like linebacker Telvin Smith leaving football and the ongoing Jalen Ramsey saga

    Jacksonville is clearly trying to get back into contention while the defense is still strong and Indianapolis is still reeling from the loss of Andrew Luck. But Marrone is stumbling out of the gates badly, and the leash could end up shortening dramatically. 

Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Is Freddie Kitchens in danger already? 

    The Cleveland Browns were surrounded by a ton of hype heading into the 2019 season, which could be deadly for Kitchens' job security if his team keeps plodding around and looking listless.

    And that's just how the 1-2 Browns look. The hype chased the team into a 43-13 season-opening loss to Tennessee, followed by a gimme over a New York Jets team missing starting quarterback Sam Darnold and then a loss to the Los Angeles Rams. 

    Some of the calls and overall execution were so poor in that Week 3 loss that people have already begun asking if Kitchens should give up his play-calling duties. Instead of flourishing under the offensive-minded coach, quarterback Baker Mayfield has dramatically regressed; he's completed just 56.9 percent of his passes with three touchdowns and five interceptions. 

    The Browns have big problems. Mayfield isn't catching anyone off guard like he did last year, the offensive line is struggling, and a seemingly loaded defense has been erratic. 

    For now, most of that will fall on Kitchens, who was a bit of a head-turning hire in the first place: His resume shortlist before this was just offensive skill positions gigs. With Baltimore twice, Seattle, New England and other divisional games still on the schedule, Kitchens is well behind where most thought he'd be. 

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